TBT: Don’t Tug at the Shoots

Don’t Tug at the Shoots

Originally posted on

Don't Pull the ShootsWriting about gardening and therapy yesterday reminded me of a favorite story of mine which focuses on how we can get in our own way through impatience and attempts at control.

The story goes something like this:

there was a farmer who worried that his rice shoots weren’t growing fast enough, and so went around tugging at them.  At the end of the day, he returned home exhausted and said to his family: I’m worn out.  I’ve been helping the rice grow.  His son ran out to look and found the fields all withered and dying.

In terms of trauma therapy (and life in general) of course there are times we need to take action. However, our hectic culture seems to over-emphasize doing at the expense of being. There are also times to focus more on the latter, on getting comfortable with letting go. I attended a mindfulness workshop last weekend (more about this in an upcoming post) that reminded me of the emotional and physical benefits we can reap from learning to “just be”: with our thought, our feelings and ourselves.

Sometimes too much effort or “doing” actually makes things worse not better! “Tugging at the shoots” is my shorthand to describe this experience of impatience and a desire to control ruining things. It reminds me that we can trust the process, that growth occurs on its own time table, that each of us have within us the capacity for movement towards healing and wholeness. Sometimes we just have to get out of our own way!

As I think about doing versus being, I am also reminded of that phrase from The Serenity Prayer used in 12-step programs: “the wisdom to know the difference”.

What are the things you need to do something about in terms of your own healing?

When do you instead need to let go and just be in the moment?

Do you need to cultivate the ability to be present with what is right now?

Is there something about yourself, your therapy or your life that you are tugging at?

Do you need to instead let go and let it unfold in its own time?

Kathleen Young, Psy.D.

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